The Dance, by Irene Némirovsky: The Terrible Mother

The Dance, by Irene Némirovsky: The Terrible Mother
The Dance, by Irene Némirovsky: The Terrible Mother

The Dance is a work by Irene Némirovsky that was published in France in 1930. It narrates the conflictive relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter, within a rich family, desperately seeking social recognition.

The psychological aspects of the bonds are portrayed in a sublime manner, and are alsobased on autobiographical aspects of Irene Némirovsky's relationship with her own mother.


The demands, aggressiveness, disaffection, hatred, rebellion, the yearning for freedom, the contrasts between the adult world and the desires of adolescence, power, ambition… They are complex issues that this work addresses with mastery and simplicity.

The terrible motheris that mother embodied in the character of Rosine in The Ball,who experiences no empathysome for her daughter. The contempt is such that the devalues constantly making her feel a hindrance.

Thecompetition and envyprevent him from giving her daughter a place

She is a mother immature, insecure, who feels that she has not lived what she deserved and that money is her opportunity to do so. For this she needs to make invisible her daughter, deny her growth, hide it.

The growth of a daughter who stopsbeing a girl, who aspires to love, recognition, freedom and personal security, collides with the wishes of her own mother: of those longings that you think you have not been able to fulfill.

Thus the mother expresses it as: «Step aside, now it's MY turn.» That exclusion leaves thedreams of her daughter absolutely hidden, reason that triggers among other factors, the act of revenge.

In this work the crudeness of the treatment of that mother is significant: she is amother who distances, who despises, who devours. She devours as long as she does not recognize her daughter as someone else with her own needs and desires

The daughter exists as long as it fulfills a function for her: greet her accordingly, have proper manners, write the guest list in beautiful handwriting…Whensomething about this daughter's desires and intentions makes her uncomfortable or hinders her own needs so she pushes her away and nullifies.

Even at the end of the story you can see how this mother changes her attitude when she sees that her daughter is the only one left to accompany her. As long as she fulfills this function, she will be lovedshe is fullynarcissisticthe position of the mother

This kind of link is absolutely destructive and is certainly reflected in the thoughts of Antoinette, in her death impulses, fantasies of destroying her mother and also of destroying herself. Her exterior confirms to him that her existence is not valued, she is notheld.

The father occupies a secondary role, because does not break that destructive interaction. He collaborates with the disparagement of his daughter, and although he does not direct the aggression, he does not oppose it either, endorsing that type of relationship

The resolution of this story is hopeful, because instead of succumbing to the tragedy of rejection, the daughter has carried out an act, a challenge, has put into play something of that "going out into the world" that she so longed for.

Through an impulse of revenge she has been able to see who was behind those authoritarian parents, she has seen them with different eyes:weak and fearful. She has seen that mother fall from the throne and crumble in front of her

This represents the fall of the almighty parents in the pubertal/adolescent stage, where they lose their imposture, and can be seen as lacking and human.

The terrible mother is that mother who can do anything; therefore, she with her mere presence can make it cease to exist. If she falls, she loses that power; and with it, the danger vanishes.

The movement that the protagonist has managed to make, allows her to get out of that passive and suffering place of being the “poor girl” who is not loved and not listened to. To become her who says, she for the first time: “Poor Mama.”

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